13th Dec, 2022 14:00

Modern British & Irish Art

Lot 326 §


inscribed and dated 'Crucifixion 1983' (on the canvas overlap verso)
oil on canvas
152.5 x 101.5 cm. (60 x 40 in.)

Purchased directly from the artist by the family of the present owner
Private Collection, U.K.


When Craigie Aitchison first witnessed Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali he embarked on a lifelong obsession and fascination with the subject. He first viewed the painting in 1951, after it was acquired by the Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow. The artist’s vivid and modern interpretation of the crucifixion would form a huge part of his oeuvre and a subject he became synonymous with.

Born in Edinburgh, Aitchison would study law, initially in his hometown and later in London before deciding to take a different path, returning to Scotland to paint the landscapes and rural countryside of Fife. Between 1952-4 he would study at Slade School of Fine Art underneath renown professor and painter William Coldstream and alongside Paula Rego, Michael Andrews and Victor Wiling.

After a group show at Gimpel Fils in 1954, Aitchison would travel extensively throughout Italy, where his fascination with quattrocento and trecento styles of painting would have a profound impact on his own style and artistic output throughout his career. When he returned he would have his first solo exhibition at Beaux Arts in 1954, one of three, and continued to develop his pre-Renaissance influenced inimitable naiveté. Aitchison became transfixed between the interaction between light and dark, and the spaces in between. His crucifixion paintings toy with the distances between the subjects, offering vast expanses of intense, block colour flatly-applied and then dividing these spaces into linear segments further highlighting the subject matter.

Variations on the series often feature other aspects including mountainous landscapes, his beloved Bedlington terrier, or trees and plantation. Here we see an incredibly paired down version of the subject, with some sparse flower stems to our left of the cross, one in bloom the other yet to spring, and a scant branch in the foreground appearing almost as a offering. The view gives us a wholly different view of one of the most painted subjects in Western culture, and provides a completely different perspective much like the one Aitchison witnessed in Glasgow, courtesy of Dali, at the start of his illustrious career.

Sold for £42,500

Includes Buyer's Premium


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